Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Fighter Program's Problems are Outrageous!

Time for another round of Name That Program!

(Any of this seem familiar?)
XXXXXXXX noted that:  
(1) XXXXXXXX has revised the XXXXXXXX flight test program by decreasing the data collection requirements that were originally planned; 
(2) program documents state that, although flight testing is behind schedule, program decisions to reduce test points will enable the XXXXXXXX to regain lost time and complete development testing in XXXXXXXX, as originally planned;  
(3) XXXXXXXX program documents identified numerous deficiencies relative to the aircraft's operational performance;   
(4) the most challenging technical issue is XXXXXXXX; 
(5) until these issues are resolved through software or hardware changes that have been adequately tested, the cost, schedule, and operational performance impact of resolving these deficiencies cannot be determined;

(6) the XXXXXXXX remains confident that it can correct these deficiencies;  
(7) in addition, XXXXXXXX that assesses risk areas in the XXXXXXXX program stated in XXXXXXXX, that operational testing may determine that the aircraft is not operationally effective or suitable;
(8) a XXXXXXXX preliminary operational assessment report, which is classified and based on limited data and analysis, identified 16 major deficiencies with the XXXXXXXX aircraft but concluded that the XXXXXXXX is potentially operationally effective and suitable;  
(9) the XXXXXXXX has consistently stated that the XXXXXXXX will be developed and produced within the cost estimates established for the program;  
(10) certain key assumptions on which the cost estimate was made have been overtaken by events;  
(11) program documents state that the current development effort is funded based on the assumption that problems would not occur during testing;  
(12) unanticipated aircraft deficiencies have occurred, and most of the program's management reserve has been depleted;  
(13) since the flight test program has about 1 year remaining, it is probable that additional deficiencies will develop;  
(14) correcting current and potential future deficiencies could result in the development effort exceeding the congressional cost cap;  
(15) the XXXXXXXX unit procurement cost estimates are understated;  
(16) these cost estimates were based on what has become unrealistically high quantities of XXXXXXXX aircraft that will be bought; and  
(17) more realistic assumptions indicate that, although the total procurement cost will decrease, the XXXXXXXX unit cost will be more than the XXXXXXXX currently estimates.

Answer below the fold. Drumroll.....

Saturday, January 21, 2017

'Opti-Onics': Arrived in the Late 20th Century

Via x-ray delta one we find the visionaries at Bell & Howell understood Intelligence Strike & Reconnaissance (ISR) way back in the 1940s :

Source: XRay Delta One (James Vaughan)
Just envision that's a 'Predator' or 'Global Hawk' silhouette we see looking down on the battlefield.

B&H is still with us-- somewhat transmogrified--too.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

B-2's Bomb ISIS!

H/T Edpop at This is pretty much a repeat of what I posted at

It is interesting that CNN focuses on the body count.

It does gives proof to the old adage "If it bleeds it leads' but my, how 'Southeast Asia 1965' of them.

What's more important: Were the right terrorists killed. This is pretty much a repeat of what I posted at

Q: Why use B-2s?
A: So ISIS never saw us coming.

Q: Why 2 B-2s to drop 38 weapons when 1 can carry 80 500lb JDAMs?
A: To bomb both locations at the same time, like probably down to the last second unless they wanted to cause a response in one first by bombing the other. And more than 38-40 would have probably been overkill.

Q: Was this cost-effective?
A: Aside from killing the terrorists who would have carried out attacks in Europe and probably elsewhere now and later (CNN and their 'militants'....F*! both.) it probably:
a.  flattened their training facilities, weapons building capability and stockpile and the trainers of future terrorists,  
b. it will also make the survivors look up in the sky at night and loose their beauty sleep.
The immediate and later costs of letting any attacks happen probably far outweighed the cost of flying 2 B-2s and expending a few bombs.

There are some less obvious positives about this, given the 'international' interest in the region, but I will not air them here.

Now  expect some slacker in the media to use the 'kitchen sink' definition of $/FH to rail against the strike as 'wasteful' in 5...4...3...2...

On a personal note...

I had a very small role in fielding the Smart Bomb Rack Assembly (Smart BRA: gotta' love it). I suppose since they dropped only 38 JDAMs they could have used the Rotary Launchers (RLAs) but that's OK too, since I also played a small role developing and testing the smart weapons interface that allowed GATS/GAM then JDAMs etc. to be dropped as well.

I feel pretty good about all that right now.

Updated 20 Jan 17: Well now the reports coming in say 'over 100' JDAMs, and some specifically assert 110 JDAMs were dropped in two camps. It appears by some accounts there were to be up to four camps targeted initially but the terrorists had consolidated as well as relocated between the time the missions were conceived and executed. I'm sure the AF still enjoys it when targets bunch up. 
It would have been hard to move assets around the Middle East to hit Libya like this without contrarian interests leaking it beforehand, I still remember Operation Allied Force and how ops departures out of Comiso seemed to be on TV in real time. The message here is: you won't see us coming unless we want you to.   

As it perhaps looked like a last tasking from Former President Obama to our enemies, I imagine they were just as surprised as some of the media appear to be when a Buff and UAVs took out a few AlQaeda in Syria in followup

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Not the 'Second Engine for the F-35' Cr*p Again!

Oh dear, if only the world was this simple.

Breaking Defense has an advocacy piece up at Breaking Defense titled: "Trump Wants Lower F-35 Costs, He Should Compete F135 Engine" from Retired USAF Colonel John Venable (who is now with the Heritage Center). In it, Venable tries to make a case for reviving a second engine effort for the F-35. But in typical AF 'advocacy style guide' fashion, elides right by many key factors to consider while throwing all possible arguments at the wall trying to make one stick. I wanted to just make a comment at BD, but since they've invoked the ads among the commenters in their comment threads their web page tends to crash on me for all but the shortest comments. Could be the times, could be my system (Adobe updater is always a suspect). In any case, here are my observations on the sales pitch Venable makes.  Read the whole BD article first to see the targets of my counterpoints.    

RE: Competition

‘Competition!’ is almost always a good thing in an open commercial and ‘free’ market, the kind of market most of us deal with every day. However, it is only a good idea sometimes, under certain conditions, in a monopsonistic (such as ‘defense’) market. At the risk of oversimplifying almost as much as the author, in a defense market a competition is generally ‘good’ for reducing risk and improving technical outcomes, but generally NOT good for reducing ‘cost’.
The body of defense acquisition research is awash with the whys and wherefores of when and how a program should invoke competition. Though people like to point to the Great Engine War history in this instance, they tend to forget that most of that ‘narrative’ was written before the history had fully played out. Later views on the utility and relevance of that competition to the F-35 are far more nuanced than simple invocation of the Great Engine War can convey. 
Not to put too fine a point on it, there are certain requirements for a successful (cost lowering) competition (see here for starters) and one of the most important set of conditions has to do with the total volume of work competed AND the rate to which it is to be performed. Two operations running at reduced capacity are NOT cheaper than one running at full capacity. So if the author and Heritage want to advocate competition in this case, they need to caveat that advocacy with a requirement to ramp up the F-35 production rates sufficiently and far enough ahead of any doubling of the number of engine suppliers to ensure sufficient and worthwhile demand for same.

Finally, given the program is looking to refresh F-35 engine technology, you better have the second engine supplier qualified and production ramped up yesterday if you don’t want it competing with the effort that now appears to be on the F-35's horizon (mid 2020s). How much so-called 'savings' can possibly accrue if there's only a couple of years production involved?

RE: F-35 Weight

Is the author aware that the F-35 variants are all at or below their target weights for the end of SDD? Is he aware that those target weights were set with an allowance for further weight growth already factored in? Is the author aware that weight growth in past aircraft (both the F-16 and F-18 spring immediately to mind) was driven primarily by scabbing kinds of needed systems (sensors, EW, etc.) onto them that are already integral to the F-35 design and already installed or have their weight already accounted for in the target weights?

RE: Thrust

Is the author aware that increased thrust has been available from the F135 for some time if is needed, but increased thrust will require changes/differences in the F-35B along with associated program cost increases to incorporate?

While we’re on the subject of cost, no doubt the author also has a plan to add a couple of $B to the program in order to finish development of a second engine, to include getting everyone on board with the idea AND happy about the extra cost involved including the cheapskates budget conscious and the faux military reform industry.

RE: 'Transonic Acceleration' and 'Sustained G' KPPs

Is the author aware that the transonic acceleration and sustained turn KPPS are only factors in the trade space below Lethality and Survivability requirements, and that their values are only relevant as contributors to the overall requirements? If the program is not concerned, the author ought to first find out 'why' before engaging in public handwringing. I've examined these KPPs before (here and here) so I get why the program isn't too concerned. As the KPP values were established with a mid-mission weight and payload involved, and assuming some degraded engine performance towards end of life, perhaps some of the author's concerns will be allayed knowing that similarly equipped F-16s in most cases couldn't do any better?

Since the author is a recognized top fighter pilot and ‘patch wearer’ who came of age in the aftermath of all-aspect short-range IR missiles, he surely must be cognizant of the fact that these two parameters have taken a backseat to instantaneous turn rate, time to corner speed, and low speed nose pointing: three measures of agility that from what the pilots are saying are where the F-35 excels.

Table 3 Reconstruction from “Advanced Fighter Agility Metrics
Andrew M. Skow, Willlam L. Hamilton, John H. Taylor; AIAA-A85-47027
10 = most important 
We won’t go into it here, but even these measures of agility may have been rendered less important with higher off-boresight and 'shorter minimum' range missiles (that's probably going to come in the next part or part after of my fighter design series by the way--still working on it).

In any case, advocating more thrust to improve these metrics is pretty hapless if one thinks about the speed regions involved. It's probably more important that the F-35 variants are meeting/beating their  weight targets.

So all the arguments for adding the second engine into the F-35, at least for the factors above, seem to be rather unconvincing. As to the decision to stop the GE engine effort, which was very immature, it made sense. How immature? As I observed in 2014:
In the spring of 2010, the F136 was only 700 hours into a 10,000 hour test program and had not been flight tested. No one knows what problems it would have encountered had it been fully developed. But in its cancellation, the F136 has become the mythical 'success-that-could-have-been-but-never-was' to the proverbial ‘some’ in the backbenches.
Let's keep the F136 the mythical success it is, at least as far as the F-35 is concerned.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Drone Swarm Testing

The applications and ramifications are numerous, mind-boggling. For the paranoid, it probably has the added bonus of being scary as h*ll.
Sleep well.